17 Dec 2018

Psilocybin Therapy in the Wild, Part 2: One Man's Story of Anxiety, Trauma and Mushrooms

by Roderick


This is an ongoing series about the therapeutic and medicinal applications of psilocybin from the recent and true experiences of helpful collaborators. Names have been changed to protect their anonymity. This is Part 2 of Namé’s (pronounced Nah-me) story. His background was explored in Part 1.

The story of Namé is punctuated by trauma and anxiety. The reasons he sought out psilocybin therapy were explored in the first part of this series. In short, aside from growing anxiety, he felt the need to confront and overcome his feelings surrounding divorce and the death of loved ones. After lots of research, reading, and learning about psilocybin as a therapy, Namé sought and luckily found a willing guide for his journey. He had prepared and searched for months, the moment had come.

Namé’s experience with psilocybin therapy

Though Namé had experience with conventional psychology and psychiatry in the forms of therapy and medications, this was his first foray into psilocybin mushrooms. A transcript was kept during his journey for him to study as a tangible reminder of the insights that occured. Along with the context of his personal experience, the following is Namé’s first-hand account of guided psilocybin therapy. Small alterations have been made for clarity and readability.

The journey was the most intense and insane experience of my life. I had never done anything like this. At most I’ve gotten very high smoking pot a few times but never experienced any kind of psychedelics or hallucinations.

I knew this was going to be a brand new experience and I was looking forward to something that humans do to alter their states of consciousness. I think if I were younger I would have been less open to it, but as I’ve been evolving I find that the older I get the more I’m willing to take risks.

The trip started with the guide burning sage all around the room, myself, and himself to honor the event. I held a bottle filled with 20 psilocybin capsules in my hands and read aloud my intentions for the journey. I concentrated on embedding my words into the psilocybin to help guide the process. While that’s rather ceremonial, it did feel like it was necessary and right.

We then emptied the 20 psilocybin capsules into a cup of applesauce and squeezed some lemon juice on it to accelerate the effect. I ate the applesauce rather quickly as I was eager to get things going. It really just tasted like eating mushrooms in apple sauce. I was surprised by how mushroom-y it was, but that makes sense. I then laid down in the bed and put my eyemask on while the guide set the music.

As the minutes passed my experience began with some really interesting hallucinations. It started with me standing outside a movie theater curtain, sort of waiting for the show to begin. I felt like a bridge of light was trying to penetrate through my mask but there was no light in the room. It was all in my head.

The psilocybin takes hold

The scene started flowing slowly. I was seeing metallic confetti floating around like pollen in the wind on a dance floor. They were rotating slowly counter-clockwise. That morphed into stencils floating across my field of view. Eventually I felt this entity coming for me as if it were the slowest roller coaster ever. It got underneath me and then started leading me down into a parking garage.

I kept talking throughout the entire journey and my guide transcribed the entire experience. Talking is really important because it not only makes a record of the experience but also, I believe, talking actually is critical in rewiring your brain. It’s talk therapy while your ego is dissolved which allows your brain to start writing down the influence.

I explored a lot of my past that influenced me. Many of my issues stem from childhood separation anxiety and I was thinking about my mother a lot. I was confronting her need to be an independent person and that she wasn’t very mothering. I just wanted her to be my mother but she had a hard time with that. I reached a better acceptance of that on this journey. I was also able to process her death much better as a result.

I explored a lot of the issues between my wife and her affair and the impending divorce. That was also really difficult and I think I may need to pursue further strategies for that.

After about 3 hours I needed to go to the bathroom and I was hesitant to take the mask off, but then the mushrooms spoke to me and told me, “this is the part of the journey where you’re supposed to experience the visuals.

From darkness to light

When I realized that, I felt that it was ok to take the mask off. It took a minute to get my legs under me but I was able to walk to the bathroom and pee. I saw myself in the mirror and didn’t have any crazy hallucinations. I didn’t see myself as a skeleton or pee diamonds like Michael Pollan did.

The most jarring part for me was after taking the mask off. Initially I was shocked that I was in this small room after having spent hours navigating this enormous space in my head. It was like taking a virtual reality headset off.

Visually, I got back into bed and was staring at my hands. I saw things in a more intense 3d way. The wrinkles in my hands were very pronounced and the background was way more blurry. It looked like my hands were much closer to me than the background. But otherwise, the hallucinations were pretty mellow.

I continued to explore the issues I was trying to solve with my ego. During most of the early part of the journey I could feel my ego holding me back. At one point it felt like it was grabbing me by the back of the neck and not letting me move forward. At other times it was making me laugh at the situation as a way to mock it. But eventually my ego dissolved.

A struggle with ego and duality

I had a conversation with it and got really angry at it for keeping me in fear and anxiety over things it shouldn’t. It responded by telling me that it was not my enemy. It was there to help me. But I needed to tell it what I needed protection from. At that moment we reached a point of peace where we were on the same page, and I understood that we’re on the same team. Then I could feel like my work was done.

I had confronted many of my fears and demons from childhood, and now the ego had the modifications it needed. The last couple hours seemed like my brain was rewiring with the new instructions. I made the analogy that we fixed the bugs in the software and sent the code to the compiler.

The rest of the trip was focused on the dissociative feeling I was having where my consciousness existed in both reality and my subsconscious. I would explain it as though while the default mode network was suppressed, my brain existed in a duality of consciousness. I could feel and process both reality and this other consciousness. The two parts of my brain that processed this were both aware and active.

It’s kind of like playing piano with both hands simultaneously. Being able to move both hands independently of each other. That’s what this consciousness was like. I was aware of reality and could think in reality but I was also somewhere in outer space thinking about how insignificant I was and that my problems are nothing in the grand scheme of the universe.

As the psilocybin started to wear off I could feel the gravity between the two consciousnesses getting stronger and eventually they collided and I was back in this reality.

The immediate aftermath

The come-down from the therapy was VERY difficult. I experienced dread and regret. I felt like I lost my identity. My entire life had been defined by anxiety. It was a leash that kept me from being able to expand emotionally, but it also provided me with an amount of safety and comfort in my identity. I was the guy who suffered from anxiety attacks. It was such a big part of my psyche that when it was gone I kind of lost myself for a while. I was really concerned. “Why did I do this? I shouldn’t have come here. Who am I now?”

Those first 24 hours were very, very rough. I was at the point where I thought to myself that no one should do this—that the purging and the catharsis wasn’t worth the immediate aftermath of suffering. My guide completely sympathized and understood what I was going through. He suggested eating would be the best thing to do. Getting yourself back to normal physically was the biggest thing.

Luckily, those feelings of dread and being lost only lasted for about 24 hours. Once I was back home in my house with my kids things started feeling better very quickly. In the next several days I was overflowing with love. I felt like the world was there for me to experience anew. It was like I had been driving a car with a flat tire my whole life and now I could drive it properly and it felt great. I just wanted to see where I could take it. I wanted life and love and to give love.

This is an ongoing series about the therapeutic and medicinal applications of psilocybin, from the recent and true experiences of helpful collaborators. Names have been changed to protect their anonymity. This is Part 2 of Name’s story. The lasting outcomes of his psilocybin therapy will be reported in the next installment.

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